A red dragon on a yellow banner flaps outside the mural-clad Shanghai restaurant, informing passers-by that this is Ottawa's Chinatown. When the Shanghai opened in 1971, it was the first restaurant on the street to serve Chinese cuisine. (Emily Chung/CBC)
Chinese New Year
Shanghai Restaurant, Ottawa
Last Updated February 15, 2007
Inside the Shanghai in the late afternoon, before the arrival of the dinner, drink and karaoke crowds.
For a glimpse of the Shanghai's past, ignore for now the karaoke-warbling drag queen named China Doll whose silver top and disco-ball earrings glitter as she sways.
Push past the students sipping coloured liquids from martini glasses; the 50-somethings teasing Singapore noodles and coconut curry vegetables with their chopsticks; the squares of painted cartoon faces staring out from red and yellow walls.
In a photo frame near the corridor left of the cat-sized golden Buddha, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looks out from the 1970s while dining with his family beneath red Chinese lanterns, next to two black-haired waiters in smart red jackets and black bow ties.
One of them is Alan Kwan, an immigrant from China's Guangdong province who opened the first restaurant serving egg rolls and chow mein on Ottawa's Somerset Street West in 1971, a Year of the Pig.
Now Asian restaurants and grocery stores, and yellow banners printed with red dragons and the word "Chinatown" line the road and Kwan's eight Canadian-born children (including China Doll, who is also known as Ed) run the eatery where they grew up.
The original wooden chairs and tables are still there, but the décor and menu have evolved to reflect and serve a new generation of Ottawa's community.
- 2 oz. Vanilla vodka
- dash Lychee liqueur
- 1 oz. Lychee juice
- 1/2 c. Ice cubes
- Peeled lychee
Shake the first four ingredients and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lychee.
Shanghai Chow Mein
Yield: 6 Servings
- 1 lb Shanghai noodles *
- ¼ cup diced green peppers
- ¼ cup sliced celery
- ¼ cup diced onions
- ½ cup bok choy *
- ¼ cup bamboo shoots *
- ¼ cup shredded Chinese radish *
- ½ cup BBQ pork, sliced into thin strips *
- ½ cup baby shrimp
- 1 tbsp chili sauce
- 1 tbsp soya sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cooking wine or dry sherry
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
China Doll, a.k.a. Ed Kwan, in one of the many outrageous outfits she wears in a single night while hosting karaoke. Kwan grew up in the restaurant opened by his father, Alan.
- Cook noodles in a pot of boiling water until tender, but firm to the bite; drain well and set aside.
- Place a wok or wide frying pan over high heat until hot.
- Add vegetable oil to the wok, add the shrimp and stir fry for one minute.
- Add vegetables, BBQ pork and Chinese radish.
- Stir fry for two minutes
- Add in the Shanghai noodles
- Stir in the chili sauce, soya sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and cooking wine.
- Gently toss all the ingredients together until heated through.
- Serve immediately.
Shanghai Restaurant, Somerset St. W. Ottawa, Ontario